Saturday, March 7, 2009

Three out of Four

It was a beautiful day after a week of ice and snow. With prospects looking good for warmer weather ahead I dove into the hives.

Hive #2
This hive was busting out with bees, brood, honey, and pollen. It looked more like the end of March than the beginning. It is composed of three medium hive bodies. As I took off the top, bees were boiling through the inner cover. I went down through frame by frame. Frames 3-7 of the top and second box looked like classic frames - bees and brood in the center with pollen and honey around the outside. Here is a typical picture.

Frames 1 and 2 were mostly full of honey. Frames 8-10 in both boxes were mostly empty, some honey, but mostly empty. I am wondering if they prefer the warmer side of the hive (facing the sun). Down in the bottom box, was a different story. The box was completely empty - nothing at all, just empty comb.
So, I moved the bottom box to the top and moved the other boxes down. If this hive continues as it is, it should be a strong producer in a month or so.

Hive #1 (I am writing about these in the order I worked on them)
This hive is composed of two deeps. It was my first hive that I got as a Nuc. Again, as I went into the top box, lots of bees, lots of stores and a healthy batch of larva and brood. Here is a typical frame:

As I went to the bottom box, again it was empty for the most part. The only thing left in the box was a couple of frames of what looked like old pollen. It looked kind of cakey. Here is a picture - if you recognize it, let me know.

But again, the hive looked healthy and I am looking for good things!

Hive #3 (RIP)
I have to admit that I have been surprised that all of the hives have made it through this winter. Unfortunately, this hive did not. As I took the top cover off there was no activity. It also had three boxes (that used to be teaming with bees :( The top box was empty, a little honey over in frames 8-10 but nothing else. Down in the second box was the bad news - dead bees, lots of them, some huddled in little groups and some with their heads down in the cells. Below is a close-up of a lot of bee butts - the bees are down in the cells trying to find food.
Unfortunately this means they starved to death (as did the bees last year). They were mostly clumped in frames 1-6. As I went through the frames I found two very full frames of honey in frames 9 and 10, with some honey also in frames 7 and 8. The food was in the box, but obviously when it got cold they hunkered down in the first 6 frames and could not get to the food. It is possible that if I went into the hive before the freeze and moved the honey around they might have been able to reach it - but who knows. Well, I have a full hive now for the first swarm :)

Hive #4
This is the hive I have been the most worried about. It never got over two medium boxes all of last year (it was my last swarm capture) and seemed to shrink down as the winter progressed. As I took off the top cover - not much activity, a few bees, but essentially empty comb, a little honey, but not much. This is the only hive that still had sugar syrup left on top. However, as I went into the bottom box - lots of activity, a good quantity of bees, stores, brood and larva! As I looked further I spotted the queen, she is in the upper middle of the picture below.

So, I am still hoping this one will perk up as the spring progresses. It just may have an old queen that doesn't produce very much. I may look at replacing her :(

So, all in all I feel pretty good about were I am at this point. Three out of four seem pretty good if we can keep them going. Thanks to my son for taking the pictures.

A couple of more things I did, that I forgot to mention. In the brood boxes I moved some of the semi empty frames from the edges of the boxes to the center were the brood was. This was an attempt to "open the brood area". There are those that believe this will keep the bees from swarming by giving the queen something to do (ie fill up the empty frames with bees) rather than go and start a new hive (a swarm). After I did this I got a message from one of the other beekeepers that indicated that I might have done this too early which could result in "chilled" brood (ie I might kill them if we get a cold snap).

From the hive the died, I took the frames with dead bees and put them in the healthy hives to hopefully get them to clean them out so I can use them for something else. Again, I got mixed information on whether this was a good idea or not :\ I also ended up with four frames with some honey which I went ahead and took in the house.

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